A Christmas Present For The 21st Century - USMP-4 On Shuttle Ends Near-Perfect Flight

December 04, 1997

The last of the U.S. Microgravity Payload (USMP-4) missions comes home Friday with a full haul of science and samples that will help scientists direct investigations for the era of International Space Station.

"Formulas and theories - and the researchers who know how to go out into industry to use them - are our most important products," said Sherwood Anderson, the mission manager at the final press conference of the mission.

While much of the work is basic research, he compared it to investing in the transistor and the laser which were invented in the 1947 and 1959, respectively. Full use of both did not come for many years, but much of modern society relies on them including eye surgery. Anderson noted that he had laser surgery just a day before the mission, yet was able to return to work almost immediately.

"These are the tools that our children will use to make tomorrow's products," he added. "My gift to my children is the research we're doing today."

"We've done extremely well," said mission scientist Peter Curreri. "We covered a lot of materials science from fundamental physics to solidification processes" in the 16-day mission aboard Space Shuttle Columbia.

Out of the four payload bay experiments and three Middeck Glovebox experiments, the investigators had only one major disappointment, but even that did not block the investigator from getting a good set of samples.

Mission manager Sherwood Anderson praised the flight crew for their work in ensuring a smooth ride for the experiments.

"They have worked with us very well and protected our science," Anderson said. "The crew gave us a beautiful, smooth ride, and the microgravity levels were great."

He added that the scientists were thrilled with the results they got from the glovebox experiments, and he gave the astronauts "two thumbs up" for their work.

Although the experiments had run exceptionally well, an extension to the mission would not provide much added value, Anderson said. Most of the facilities had used all their consumables or had been shut down in anticipation of landing.

Although no further flights of USMP are scheduled, Anderson said the payload assembly will be kept intact after samples are removed from the various facilities.

A quick score on the USMP-4 experiments includes (a more detailed science summary is available from NASA/Marshall's Liftoff web site):

Payload bayMiddeck Glovebox

NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center--Space Sciences Laboratory

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